8 ways to get more out of your IT department
When it comes to IT, the question most medium size businesses are asking themselves is “how do I get the best out of my technology and IT department?” Below is a list of some of the things management should do to ensure that your IT is given, and giving you the best chance of reaching your business goals.
Stop ad hoc IT projects
Nothing derails your business technology initiatives like an unplanned IT project requested of the IT department. Ad Hoc projects are generally ill conceived, have not had the correct and prior planning required and consume resources for existing initiatives. To stop ad hoc or a IT projects you should:
- Setup an IT project steering committee where initiative are tabled, costed and scheduled according to the current business goals
- Have a yearly strategic IT projects workshop where all initiatives are mapped out and resourced for the year ahead. That way budgets and resources can be planned, giving the business visibility of their IT. Any changes to this must go through the project steering committee.
Understand how long it takes your business to recover from a disaster
If you can’t measure it you can’t improve on it. This is the case for most tasks performed by your business and holds true for your business continuity. Some questions to ask yourself and your management team:
- What is the cost to your business if you are down for 4 hours?
- What is the cost to your business if you are down for 1 day?
- What is the cost of your business if you are down for 1 week?
- How long did it take during the last test run of your disaster recovery plan?
Knowing how quickly you can recover from a disaster will highlight what your potential risk is if/when you experience one. Understanding the current situation will immediately tell you if your current disaster recovery plan is adequate for your business’ needs.
Align your virtual and physical security
Most businesses take their physical security seriously. There are swipe cards to access the building, pin codes for secure areas, even security guards manning key areas. Your IT security should be taken even more seriously. Why you ask? A hacker can be across the world scanning for vulnerabilities in your defences, and scanning many other businesses at the same time with little extra effort.
The process of actually breaking in once a vulnerability is found requires little or no further overhead. Therefore you should ensure your IT department can:
- Show you processes on creating new accounts and decommissioning old accounts
- Show you the results of the latest ethical hacking attempts on your network
- Show you a copy of your information security policy framework
Assign responsibility for your IT functions
The IT infrastructure of any size business has over 200 different areas of responsibility. This can be from checking backups ran all the way up to ensuring that IT aligns with the businesses goals. To ensure no one item falls through the cracks, and to ensure there is no finger-pointing when an incident occurs, a responsibility matrix should be written up. In developing the matrix, tasks should include:
- Reviewing all 3rd party contracts
- Reviewing the IT organisational chart
- Create a service responsibility matrix (RACI) with approvals, accountable and responsibilities
In a single half-day workshop the majority of the matrix can be developed to align and organise the IT team.
Shorten your audit times and increase productivity
You may be able to stop ad hoc projects from consuming your IT resources but audits can hit you at any time. You may receive an email from Microsoft, or a notification that the external auditors are coming in to steal your precious daylight hours. There are some action items you can implement to manage the compliance of your environment:
- Create a license register and update it quarterly. This way you plan your licensing purchases and shortfalls over a 3 month period and there are no surprises.
- Access to an up to date licence register can simply be handed over to the auditors with no further work required from your IT team
- Fully documented policies developed from your Responsibility Matrix (see Assign responsibility for your IT functions above)
IT budgeting – shines a light on initiatives
There are obvious benefits to performing a yearly IT budget review, which includes managing costs and expenses. However one of the great benefits of a yearly IT budget review is that it highlights some of the initiatives and goals for the year. This exercise can help develop the yearly IT strategy (see stopping ad hoc projects above).
No more new passwords to remember!
One of the biggest complaints regarding IT is the sheer number of passwords a person needs to remember these days. IT departments generally recommend a unique password for each service to keep security high, but this has the adverse effect of diminishing a person’s productivity. They spend too much time entering in multiple passwords, getting locked out or going through the process of resetting passwords.
To increase your organisation’s productivity and maintain high levels of security, a simple password management tool such as LastPass can be deployed to your organisation. With minimal cost, such a tool requires your staff to remember only one password; to unlock their vault which means the rest of their passwords can be random and secure.
Ensure all your staff has basic IT training
A well-trained workforce is a productive workforce. Official courses can be implemented but this usually takes staff away from the office. There are other ways to ensure your staff are trained:
- Have power users who can share their knowledge will all staff
- Have productivity sessions where hints and tips are shared amongst co-workers to increase everyone’s efficiency
- Have a knowledge base of information that the organisation can refer to fix their own issues
An IT department that encourages and actively participates in staff training can reduce the IT troubleshooting costs and create a solutions-focused workforce which is a positive for your business.
Do you have any other tips or suggestions that have worked in your organisation? Feel free to share your thoughts.